Fear, trauma hound quake evacuees in Surigao City
SURIGAO CITY, Philippines – For the third night in a row, Antonio Tirol brought his family from their home in Barangay Taft to the Surigao del Norte Provincial Capitol grounds to spend the night under the stars.
Along with 136 other families, the Tirol family has been coming here to sleep since the magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck here on Friday night, February 10.
The fear of being caught in another massive quake, in the dark, permeates in the air. Close to a thousand people have converged on the capitol grounds, fearing another tremor.
The aftershocks are also making matters worse. On Sunday, February 12, thousands of residents scampered from the city gymnasium to open grounds, after experiencing two aftershocks just minutes apart.
Wrapping themselves in blankets and sleeping on plastic mats with just a makeshift roof made of plastic sacks, the Tirols squeezed themselves together in a space smaller than 4 square meters.
Antonio recalled that on the night of the earthquake, his family was sleeping when the ground shook. "At first, the shaking was slow, then it got faster. It felt like forever," he said.
Antonio's wife got up when something came crashing over their roof. The balusters from their neighbor's home fell and hit her lower back as she attempted to cover their children.
"Up until now, she still feels the pain. We have no money for checkups," Antonio said as he was setting up their makeshift tent.
Just a block away from the Tirols, Marilou Buenaflor's home was also severely damaged.
Buenaflor said half of their house's floor was lifted up before it caved in. The house itself got tilted, the walls are cracked, and their kitchen sink collapsed into their septic tank. They had to escape through the windows since their door was also jammed.
The Boulevard, which stretches along the coast where Dinagat Island-bound pump boats dock, is also damaged.
The concrete pier sustained cracks, and concrete benches were broken. Hotel Tavern, which lies at the northeastern end of the avenue, is also heavily damaged.
A few kilometers from the Boulevard, down south in Barangay Washington, Anita Cebuano took her 5 children with her to sleep at the capitol compound.
They live in a community near the river. Cebuano's nephew Joshua Iligan shared that the land where some houses stand became eroded, splitting houses.
Cebuano's neighbor Marjorie Liwanan said that when the ground started shaking, the land split and water burst out, reaching around 5 feet high.
"Water burst out, showering us. There was no power, it was dark. That's why we're afraid that when another quake will strike again, we will be hit in darkness. That's scary," Liwanan said.
Dandy Paraguya from Barangay Mabua also evacuated with his entire family.
"We have no more house. It collapsed last Friday," Paraguya said, showing journalists photos of his house.
'What if it happens again?'
Many of the evacuees go back to their houses – or whatever's left of it – during the day, checking if there's anything that can be saved or repaired.
The Surigao City chapter of the Philippine Red Cross has provided tents for the displaced, but they need more. (READ: Quake-hit Surigao now under state of calamity)
Some prefer to continue sleeping at the capitol compound, fearing another strong tremor would jolt them awake.
"It is easier to sleep here at night than sleep in our houses," said Raul Subiri, whose house stands along a river. "What if we're asleep and the ground moves again, and the pathways collapse? We would plunge into the water."
It isn't helping that on social media, some people are spreading rumors that a stronger earthquake would strike the area soon.
"Where will we go if that happens?" a resident asked. – Rappler.com